Month: April 2014

Autism and the Theatre

If you didn’t know, April is Autism Awareness Month. Today (April 2nd), people were encouraged to wear blue to show support for autism awareness. Over the next month, I will be highlighting autism on my blog and how the arts can affect and help autistic individuals (specifically autistic students.)

Autism affects one in 88 children today, according to Vanderbilt University researchers and theatre and theatre related activities can help in those children’s devolpment.

A recently released study assessed the effectiveness of a two-week theatre camp on children with autism spectrum disorder and found significant improvements were made in social perception, social cognition and home living skills by the end of the camp. There were also positive changes in the participants’ physiological stress and reductions in self-reported parental stress.

Called SENSE Theatre, the Social Emotional Neuroscience & Endocrinology (SENSE)program evaluates the social functioning of children with autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders.

Camp participants ages 8 to 17 years join with typically developing peers who are specially trained to serve as models for social interaction and communication, skills that are difficult for children with autism. The camp uses techniques such as role-play and improvisation and culminates in public performances of a play.

“The findings show that treatment can be delivered in an unconventional setting, and children with autism can learn from unconventional ‘interventionists’ – their typically developing peer,” said lead author Blythe Corbett, Ph.D., associate professor of Psychiatry.

Theatre and the arts is making strides in helping children on the autism spectrum and is something theatre professionals should encourage and help out with.